Adapted and translated from Rosario Ferré’s folktale about "La Cucarachita Martina" Señora B rooks Union Jr/Sr High School, Modoc, IN
Once upon a time there was a beautiful cockroach that lived in the countryside. Her eyes were black and her skin brown. Everyone called her Martina the Cockroach. The cockroach took very good care of her house, and it shined like a cup of gold. One day while sweeping the patio of her house she found a round object.
Hhhmmmm? What could this round object be? (as she wipes off the dust) Ahha, it’s a coin! What am I going to do with this coin? Ah yes, I already know what I’m going to do! I will buy myself a new dress. No, no, a dress costs much more than this coin. Hmmm? What am I going to buy with this coin? I will buy a pair of shoes. Oh, no, no! A pair of shoes is worth a lot more than this coin. Ahha! I know, I will buy myself some face powder. This is something I don’t have. (the cockroach goes to town to buy a powder puff)
That afternoon when Martina returned to her house, she took a bath, powdered herself all over, and put on her best dress. Martina looked stunning. She had a flower in her hair and her face was beautifully powdered. Then she went to sit on her balcony to get some fresh air.
If Pérez the Rat passes by and sees me, I’m sure he will invite me to dance with him tonight!
At that moment, Mr. Cat very elegantly crossed the street. He was all dressed in black because he was on his way to a wedding. When he saw how beautiful the cockroach looked, Mr. Cat approached her balcony. He leaned on the banister, twisted his whiskers in a very aristocratic manner and said:
Good afternoon, Martina. How beautiful you look today! There is a dance tonight. Would you like to dance with me?
Perhaps, Mr. Cat, perhaps. But, how will you talk to me while we dance?
I will meow, "Meow, MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOO OOOOOWWWWWW, MEOWMEOWMEOWMEO, MEOOOOWMEEEEEOOOO OOW!"
Ah no, please, Mr. Cat! I don’t like that. Why in fact it scares me. Leave and go far away from here, before I call the police.
And Mr. Cat left running as fast as he could. At that moment, Mr. Dog crossed the street with his coat freshly combed because he too was on his way to a wedding. Seeing the cockroach looking so beautiful, he leaned over the balcony and scratched his back against the banister. He perked up his ears as if he were a dog of class and said:
A very good afternoon to you, Martina! But how lovely you look today! Tonight there is a dance. Would you like to dance with me?
Maybe. But first, you have to tell me how you will talk to me while we dance.
Of course I will show you, Martina! I will bark like this "RUFF, RUUUUUUUFFFFFFFFFFF, RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR RRRRRRRRRUUUUUUUF, RUFFRUFFRUFF!"
Ah no, please, Mr. Dog! Get away from me. You are very rough and with so much noise you’re going to scare all the others at the dance.
And Mr. Dog left very sad. But at that moment, Mr. Rooster passed with his feathers very clean and very elegantly dressed. He came close to the balcony and said:
Good afternoon, Martina! But how pretty you look today! I want to invite you to dance with me tonight!
Maybe, but first tell me: how will you talk to me while we dance?
My voice would be like a music box, Martina. I will sing: "COCKADOODLE DOO I LOVE YOU!"
Mr. Rooster left very sadly. And then in the time you can make the sign of the cross, the grasshopper appeared and hopped right next to the balcony of the house.
A very good afternoon to you, Martina. How gorgeous you look today! I would like to invite you to dance tonight.
You know, it all depends, Mr. Grasshopper. How will you talk to me while we are dancing?
That’s very easy. I will say to you "PRRR, PRRRRRRRRR, PRRRRR, I’m sweet like candy, PRRR, PRRR".
Aye no, please! Leave now Mr. Grasshopper. You sound too whinny.
Mr. Grasshopper’s antennas lowered because of embarrassment. A little later, appeared Mr. Goat with his brilliant horns and his beard very combed.
Good afternoon, Cockroach. How strikingly beautiful you look today! Tonight there is a dance. Would you like to go with me?
It all depends Mr. Goat. How will you talk to me when we dance?
That isn’t difficult. I will say to you: "BEEEEH, BEEEHHHH, BEEEEEEEEH, BEEEEEEEEEEEHHHH HHH! You are so beeeeeeaaaaautiful."
Aye, no, no Mr. Goat. You are very mistaken! Go away from here, I do not want to dance with you!
The goat left very sad and disappointed. From a far, ribit, ribiiit, riiiiiibit, rrrrrrrrrrrrribit, was heard. It was a small pale frog that approached the balcony.
Good afternoon, Cockroach! How cute you look today! Would you like to dance with me at the dance tonight?
Perhaps, but first tell me: How will you talk to me while we are dancing?
I will sing to you, "RIIIBIT, RRRRRRRIBIT, RIBBBIT, BIT, BIT, BIT."
No, no, I believe if you talk to me that way I will faint.
The frog left from there singing softly, "bit, bit". And in that moment, a very cute pig appeared at the balcony of the house. He was very elegant and good-looking
Good afternoon, Martina! How precious you look today. Would you like to go with me to the dance?
I don’t know. First tell me how you will talk to me while we dance.
"OINK, OINK, OINK, how happy you make me when I see you, OINK, OINK."
Oh no, oh no, with that oink, oink, you will certainly scare me. Please get out of here before all that mud splashes my feet.
The pig left with his twisted tail. And in that moment a little yellow light was noticed. It was a firefly that was impressed by the cockroach’s beauty so he, too, approached her.
Good afternoon, Cockroach. How stunning you are! Would you like to dance with me ?
Maybe, but how will you talk to me while we dance?
I will not tell you anything. I will only illuminate you with my light.
Oh no, oh no. You will blind me with that light of yours.
The firefly’s light died out. Suddenly, an elegant and handsome eagle appeared who had just traveled from the north for the grand dance. He had been informed that Martina had rejected all the candidates for the dance. He thought that with his marvelous feathers he would win her over.
Good evening, Martina. What a tropical beauty I see in front of me! Would you make me the happiest eagle and go with me to the fiesta?
Maybe, but first tell me how you will talk to me while we dance.
We don’t need words. I will sweep you off your feet and show you the fifty shining stars.
Oh no, oh no, don’t sweep me off my feet. Please leave as fast as your great wings can carry you!
The eagle flew away slowly. But from afar you could hear…..
Cockroach Martina, do you want to dance, do you want to dance? Pérez the Rat came to invite you, came to invite you.
The cockroach saw him approaching, so she fixed her antennas and sat up straight. Pérez the Rat was dressed with a black shirt and recently ironed pants, and on his head he wore a black hat, decorated with a beautiful red feather.
Good afternoon, gorgeous maiden. How remarkably dazzling you look today! Will you do me the honor of accompanying me to the dance tonight?
I will slowly say to you, "EEE, EEE, EEE, that’s the way I love you!"
Oh, how beautiful and how fine! I like the way you talk to me, Pérez the Rat. Yes, I want to go to the dance with you.
Martina the Cockroach and Pérez the Rat danced together all night long. Martina’s life had changed the day she discovered the coin when she was sweeping. Her discovery wasn’t only of the coin, but of a pure love. She realizes that the rat likes her for who she is and not just because she wears powder on her face. The rat always paid attention to Martina and because of that she wants him to ask her to the dance. All the other animals only approach her after she puts powder on her face.
The lesson that we learn from this story is that our friends are those who appreciate us for who we are.